When we were in Paris a while ago the restaurant Au Pied de Cochon had the most amazing looking french onion soup, something the Lonely Planet guide said they were famous for. There was so much cheese on top that you couldn't see the croutons or the soup, just a vast expanse of melted Gruyere that had to be dug through to reach the main event - or was the cheese the main event really? Alas we were just squeezing in a late lunch of grilled pig's trotter and I had to decline the soup so not to ruin the evening meal a mere few hours ahead. I watched in awe the lucky diners around me though. Since then I've been meaning to recreate the dish at home and last week I managed it. I've not quite got the slab of cheese they had, but I managed near complete coverage.
When making french onion soup it's really important you get a lot of colour on your onions, without this you're never going to get the deep, rich brown finished article. You don't want to burn them, adding bitter burnt caramels to the flavour, but you want them brown all over and starting to collapse to a sweet, sticky mess in the bottom of the saucepan, a bottom with a yet more onion near (but not quite) burnt on, ready to be loosened with boiling stock. If you manage this you're left with depth of flavour, the caramelised onion permeating everything, and not just onions boiled in beef stock. With the masses of cheese and bread it is a meal in its own right.
This recipe is of my own invention, but then it's not the hardest thing to create a recipe for. The Worcestershire sauce may have some French chefs turning in their graves, but it adds a fine savoury element so I'm happy to use it.
French Onion Soup
Ingredients, for 2 people
1 Clove garlic, crushed
Pinch dried thyme
600ml Beef stock
1 ts Worcestershire Sauce
4 Slices of baguette, an inch thick
1 Clove garlic
To prepare the croutons preheat the oven to180 degrees then pour some olive oil into a baking tray, putting the bread in then flipping to coat. Bake for 15-20 minutes, till well browned. They may seem hard but the soup will soon remedy this. Once cooked rub the peeled and cut garlic clove over both sides of each slice to flavour.
Heat the butter and a little oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion, cooking for 5 minutes until starting to colour. Add the sugar and the garlic clove and give a couple more minutes before turning the heat right down.
Leave the onions for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they're well coloured (see photo) and sticky, with a saucepan that needs deglazing.
Add the stock, vermouth and Worcestershire sauce, bring to the boil (scraping the bottom whilst stirring) then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Turn on a grill to hot and split the soup between two warmed ovenproof bowls. Top each with two croutons and half the grated Gruyere. Grill till bubbling and starting to brown then serve.